Friday, September 16, 2011

Sacred Soup curriculum for catechumens

    1. Fundamentals of Integral Philosophy
    A central reason that so many people are "spiritual but not religious" is that the practical philosophy that informs their day to day life is more mature than the religion they have been exposed to.  The religion seems childish.
    To move to a most robust spiritual awareness we must have an articulation of our religion that matches our most mature philosophy.  For me, that is Integral and this class will introduce in broad outlines what characterizes such a way of viewing experience.
    1. Developing a mature faith: stages of faith
    Everything that grows does so through stages or levels.  When a stage no longer works for us we have to go through an often difficult transition to a more complex way of being that makes life simpler.  The difficulties may cause us to get stuck.
    One of the things that grows is our faith.  In this class we will get clear first of all about what we mean by faith and then will look at what we have each experienced as the stages we have moved through and will imagine what stages lie ahead for us.
    1. Developing a mature church: stages of community
    Another thing that grows is community.  Using Paul Smith's book, Integral Christianity as our guide we will explore different stages in the development of Christian community.
    Rev. Smith lays out six different types of church as a function of the level of development of the theology of each.  He classifies them as Tribal, Warrior, Traditional, Modern, Post-modern, and Integral Church.
    1. Integral philosophy and Christian Theology
    In this class we will pull together the content of the three previous ones as we try to conceptualize what it means to follow Jesus from an integral perspective.  This central class will be a bridge to the three which follow in which we look at the incarnation, the nature of the divine, and how we can connect to the divine.
    1. Jesus and Christ:  do we worship or do we follow?
    The earliest Christians were followers of Jesus.  But by the time Christianity became the state religion under the rule of Constantine, the religion was more focused on what to believe about Jesus than on his teachings.  In this class we will consider the difference between worshipping Christ and following Jesus and will explore what that means for how we understand our own faith and our own potential to know God.
    1. Three relationships with one God
    God in three persons is not only a formula for the Trinity; it is also the grammar of how we relate to the divine as third person God out there, second person God as Thou in intimate relationship, and first person as God within our very being as the source of our own existence and experience.  In this class we will look at these three ways of being in relationship to God and will share our own experiences with and comfort with each.
    1. Prayer from an integral perspective
    Whatever may be our potential for resting in any or all of these relationships, we will have to give attention to those relationships to deepen them.  We deepen our relationship to the divine through prayer, but what does that mean and what does that look like?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Location for Sunday

I just learned that the booth for Gateway OnA will be #30 at Pride Fest.  The booths will all be clustered around the Main Drive at Tower Grove Park at the far east end.  We will be on the north side of the Main Drive but on the south side of the walk just about mid-way.  We are right next to Pride Center.  I expect we will be gathering for worship around 2:00.  If you plan to join us, give me a call at 314-853-9385 so we will know to wait for you.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pride Fest 2011

Pilgrim UCC is a member of Gateway OnA.  Many UCC churches in the St. Louis area have declared themselves to be Open and Affirming.  This is a declaration that a congregation may make as a statement about how it understands and responds to the reality of a God who creates us with many sexual orientations.  It affirms that all are precious children of God and worthy of care and concern and that all are extravagantly welcomed into the community of the local congregation.  This is a very important statement to make publically in a society which rejects and condemns people because of their sexuality.

Those UCC churches in the St. Louis area which have declared themselves Open and Affirming work together under the umbrella of Gateway Ona.

This coming weekend marks the annual celebration of PrideFest in Tower Grove Park.  The celebration will be Saturday and Sunday.  At noon on Sunday there will be a parade and Gateway OnA will walk in it.  You are invited to join us by meeting at 11:30 at St. Paul UCC at 3510 Giles Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63116-4790

The parade starts at noon.

After the parade we will gather at the Gateway OnA booth and from there find a place to meet for Sacred Soup.  We will not be eating (unless you bring something) but we will gather for contemplation.  I will post directions to the booth Saturday afternoon when I know where it is.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

In the Pine Grove at Forest Park

We met today in the Pine Grove at 729 S. Skinker.  I was a beautiful day and we caught what breeze there was.  Here is a link to the pictures.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Father's Day

This coming Sunday Pilgrim has a Father's Day lunch following morning worship so we will not be serving soup. Also, it was pretty warm in the chapel last week. I really worked at getting the chapel cooled off last Sunday but by the end of the meeting it was up to 81 in the room and still. Maybe having a few fans to stir up the air would help, but we are expecting it to be 95 Sunday afternoon. So...

We are going to take it to the park. There is a pine grove in Forest Park at what would be 729 South Skinker. You can park on Skinker just south of the light at Rosebury and walk uphill until you see the pine grove. I was going to link to a map but all you have to do is go to Skinker and Rosebury and walk uphill and head for the tallest and densest grove of pines.

We will gather at 1:00 and have a somewhat different worship than has become our custom. We have been exploring various contemplative practices (silent meditation, chant, guided meditation, lectio divina…) but we have not done much with sacraments. This Sunday we will explore the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, of the Eucharist. Sarah is bringing the wine and Mark is baking bread. While we won't actually plan on a full meal, you may want to bring something to share. There are a couple of benches in the pine grove which are quite comfortable or you can bring a blanket or chair.

In two weeks we will be at Pride Fest in Tower Grove Park. I suggest we gather at the Gateway OnA booth and find a place to meet from there. The week after that is July 3 and we may want to assess who will be available to meet. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

No Soup Sunday

This coming Sunday, June 5, Pilgrim will follow morning worship with the Annual Meeting Dinner.  As a result, we will not be serving soup and bread at noon and the time for the Sacred Soup contemplative service will be set back to 2:00.

We have made a couple of alterations to the space.  I put up bars from which to hang fabric to absorb the sound and Kathy O’Leary gave us a carpet remnant for under the “altar.”  This will make it easier for us to hear each other in the “live” room.

If you have an old quilt that you would be willing to donate to the cause, we would gratefully accept it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

May 22


Our fourth gathering of Sacred Soup will be Sunday.  One of the things the planning team identified as a point of growth was the structure and content of the Word portion of the service.  We want to move to it being more of a discussion than a sermon.  Last week was a bit more preachy that I would have liked because we had to accommodate the demands of the Confirmation Class.  I would like to swing in the other direction this Sunday and have very little structure for that part of the service.  Instead I would like to just throw it open to discuss what we are looking for in that part of the service.

Just to plant some seeds, let me say that what I intend by that part of our time together is to build a language by which we can speak to each other with clarity about our own spiritual life.  I want us to be able to understand some core distinctions in ways that allow us to know how we may be in harmony with each other and to identify when we are not.

See you Sunday.

P.S. Anyone want to bring the soup?  I have several loaves of bread.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Modifications to the Order of Worship for Sacred Soup

The planning team met following the service today. It consisted of me, Mark Barnett, Larry Gaines, and Carol Moakley. We agreed to the following modifications in the order.

Renaming “Joys and Concerns”
We value having the Sacred Soup event be distinctive. We want it to be different from the 10:30 worship. That being said, one of our favorite parts of the 10:30 worship is the sharing of joys and concerns. We want a similar sort of sharing of the things that are “on our hearts.” For that reason we are going to simply change the name of that part of the service to “Sacred Sharing.”

Because we want to encourage everyone to share as deeply as they are willing to do so and because deep sharing can make others anxious in ways that cause them to begin to do “caretaking” in a manner that can distance people, we will encourage ourselves to respond to deep emotional sharing by, “not helping each other feel better, but helping each other better feel,” and by, “not solving each other’s problems but sharing what we have each done to address similar problems.” In this way we are each invited to be centered in our own experience rather than in each other’s.

Re-framing the Meditation
The expository content portion of the service feels too much like a sermon and not enough like a conversation. This was especially true today because the event was aimed in part at teaching about the Holy Spirit for the Confirmands, but we want to create more interaction encouraging all to speak about their own experience.

My thought is to begin with a description of a “problem of living” which is something fairly universal. We may even be able to use a part of the guided meditation to “set up” the issue. As we wrestle with the issue and explore how it affects each of us, theological content can be inserted. But the theological consideration becomes an aid to how we respond to the issue, rather than the theology being a doctrinal pronouncement.

I am frankly not sure how I am going to pull this off. It is going to take some work to figure out how to structure it. For next week I am going to try this approach with the common issue of when we have two choices, each apparently equally good or bad, but also apparently mutually exclusive. How do we address this seemingly impossible situation?

Positioning of the “Passing of the Peace”
We want to have a bit more interaction before we greet each other. Especially because we will just have had lunch together, it is not as though we haven’t had a chance to say, “Hi.” It seems more appropriate to place this at the end as a sort of benediction. Thus the song after the Peace is a closing hymn and benediction.

We like the other aspects of the service and especially the chant. We will try other ones. The singing today was especially nice as we continued it longer and we had some voices adding harmony.

Reflection on the nature of the Holy Spirit

This was the third gathering of Sacred Soup. I counted seventeen people. We had more Pilgrims but we especially had the three Confirmands and five people from a group I did a retreat for yesterday. That included a couple from Wisconsin.

Even with all the people we still have plenty of bread and soup. A couple of people also brought cookies.

The planning team met following the service and made several modifications. Those will be posted separately.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Inaugural Gathering

Today was our first gathering. Sarah brought the soup and Mark brought the bread. Carol couldn't make it but Helen was there to represent the family. Jenny brought her parents. We were eight in all and everyone seemed to greatly enjoy the event.

Pictures on Picasa


Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Space is Ready

Mark and Mark worked for about five hours on the floor. After scrubbing and then mopping three times it is ready for us. We have arranged the benches and chairs in a circle but it ends up like more of an oval. We don't have the screens yet, of course, so we will be using a laptop and an extension screen to view the order of worship.

I sat for a while in the space late Saturday afternoon. We had left some windows open to get ventilation but rain is forecast so I went back to close them. I lit the candle. I urge you to just sit alone in the chapel when you get a chance. These are the pictures I took.


Friday, April 29, 2011

Crock Pot

I just took delivery on a 6 quart crock pot. It is still in the box but is itchin' to make some soup. I will have it in the kitchen Sunday morning at 8:30. Sarah, you have the recipe. What shall we bring?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Danforth Chapel prep

Mark and Mark worked on cleaning Danforth Chapel and shearing off the bolts that held the benches in place.  Here are pictures. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

News of the Planning Team

The Sacred Soup planning team met Sunday evening at the home of Carol and Brien and we noted the following:

Mark and Mark have removed the bolts from the benches in Danforth Chapel and stacked some of them in the corner and arranged the rest in a circle.  We still need to pull the bolts out of the floor.  The ones in the tile in the chancel came out fairly easily but the ones in the concrete floor in the nave are harder to remove.  If we can’t take them out we will cut them off.  In order to finish protecting the floor we will fill the holes with epoxy filler dyed the color of the tile.  We also have a lot of cleaning to do.

We are planning on starting May 1.  We won’t have everything in place but, since we want the input of those who gather, not having everything done invites participation.  We will have soup and bread and we will be able to worship with each other.

We discussed the concerns of the Council in the conversation preceding the vote to allow the use of Danforth Chapel.   We affirm that we are fully a part of Pilgrim Church and want to avoid even the appearance of being a splinter group.  To solidify this message:
  • ·         We link to the Pilgrim Home Page on our blog at
  • ·         We want the Council to approve our application for a trademark for the name Sacred Soup to be owned by Pilgrim.
  • ·         We want to routinely report to the congregation about our activities so that nothing appears secret or separate.

Moving forward we have some plans for further renovation of the chapel for our use. These include:
  • ·         Suspending lighting above the central table
  • ·         Adding a counter for serving soup, bread, and beverages
  • ·         Adding comfortable “living room” style seating in the back corners for casual conversation
  • ·         Putting down area rugs and hanging banners and tapestries to deaden the echo
  • ·         Mounting a video and sound system for viewing movies, short videos, PowerPoint, background music, and other AV resources including items from the Internet
  • ·         Adding lighting to the narthex to use it as display space

We think we can do much of this with donated labor and furniture but we will probably spend up to $5,000 on the renovations.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sources for Sacred Soup

“Sacred Soup” is the name we have given to a weekly worship experience with a complex theology but a simple format.  After meeting shortly after noon on Sundays and sharing a simple lunch of soup and bread, a small group of people will engage with each other and the Spirit in pursuit of a deeper awareness of what it means and feels like to gather “In Christ.”

The idea for the event was one that Mark Robinson brought with him as one of the six Pilgrims who sojourned to Memphis to visit 1st Congo UCC the last weekend in March 2011.  Out of the experiences in Memphis, the six agreed to explain and implement their observations by working together to create “Sacred Soup.” They will form the core of the planning team for the project but all are welcome to join them.

There are several aspects of this project that are characteristic of the philosophical and procedural shifts that the six discern as important for Pilgrim.

  • Do new things in new ways with an awareness that new ideas sometimes fail and sometimes succeed.  Take risks in ministry.  Don’t stomp on someone else’s “Yes!” just because we haven’t done this before.
  • Use the resources which are underutilized.  Don’t let the gifts and tools we have for ministry languish.  The Spirit speaks through silence and emptiness as well as through shouts and excess.
  • Don’t rely on the existing administrative structures to generate new programs.  Vertical structures get top heavy.  Lead from the excitement and needs of the members and neighbors.
  • Expect new projects to be self-governing and self-sustaining.  If an idea has the spark that it takes to catch fire, then the people who build it should be able fan the flames.  They can raise their own financial resources and sweep their own floors.

All the planning team needs from Pilgrim is permission to use Danforth Chapel from noon to 4:00 on Sundays and to be free to add lighting and to move the benches to create more open space.  We will clean and prepare the space and will publicize and sustain the program.  We are looking to be affiliated with Pilgrim much as the Soup Kitchen is affiliated.  We expect that people who are not currently Pilgrim members will join in the project (and potentially join Pilgrim).  We do not require any resources from the General Fund or depend upon the efforts of the Pilgrim staff.  We expect to contribute to the General Fund for our use of utilities.  We hope to start May 1, 2011.

Mark Barnett
Sarah Coffin
Larry Gaines
Jenny Heim
Carol Moakley
Mark Lee Robinson

Qualities of "Sacred Soup"

While specific aspects of the worship and the community which gathers for it are yet to be revealed, these are some qualities we are looking for.

Simple:  Our  worship is as uncluttered as we can make it. 
  • Gathering: We gather first physically as we share in the nourishment of simple food.  We then gather spiritually as we slow our thoughts and open our awareness to each other and to our deepest selves. 
  • Opening: We then seek to deepen our awareness of the divine in our midst as we reflect upon scripture in its many forms. 
  • Offering: Finally we collect the resources we have been given and dedicate ourselves for service to each other and the will of God.

Integral:  While seeking to keep our common life simple, we acknowledge that reality can be quite complex.  We will discard nothing to create a false sense of harmony.  All things, all thoughts, all people, all perspectives have a place.

Christian:  Even as we are appreciative of all paths, we each can only walk one path at a time.  We follow in the Way of Jesus whom we affirm as the Christ.

Sensory:  Even as we seek a deeper apprehension of our divine nature, we relish and give thanks for the gift of our lives and the richness of sensory experience.  We seek to deepen our worship through graphic art, dance, music, touch, taste, and smell.

Liturgical: Generations have found paths to connect to the divine presence through observing the rhythms of nature and creating and participating in rituals to heighten our awareness of events both natural and historical.  We will let those generations teach us even as we create our own rituals and discover our own rhythms.

Progressive: Everything that lives grows.  Our faith is alive and we dare not smother it by trying to keep it in old wine skins.  God is still speaking.

Pentecostal:  Emotion is not the enemy of reason but the product of deep connection.  We seek to both deeply feel and fully express the movement of the Spirit in and through us.

Mindful: In a culture which always urges us to do more and more, we honor the gifts that come as we seek to simply be.  We listen to whatever arises in our awareness as an expression of Spirit worthy of our attention and then listen to the silence without expectation.

Relational: The most precious gift and the hardest discipline is the  creation and reconciliation of deep and durable relationships.  We relate to individual others in fellowship.  We relate collectively to the larger community through mission.  We relate to the sacred Will for all life through our openness to transformation.  God is Love.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


You are invited to join us for
Sacred Soup
a contemplative celebration of conscious connection in Christ

We first gather physically in the chancel of Danforth Chapel at Pilgrim Church for a simple but hearty lunch of soup and bread.  Thus fortified we gather ourselves emotionally and spiritually through meditation and chant, summoning the Peace of Christ and sharing that with each other.

We then open ourselves to the presence of the Word in the scripture of the canon and the other sources of God’s Speaking as the Spirit makes known to us.  We share that Word and interpret it to each other through preaching and conversation.

Thus fortified by material and spiritual food, we give our thanks by entering into covenant with each other for the ways we are in service to each other in harmony with and expression of God’s will for us.

We meet most Sundays with lunch set out shortly after noon and meditation beginning at 1:00.  Following our worship, the Sacred Soup team will meet to plan the service for the following week.  You are invited to stay and offer your gifts towards our common life.

Central to our worship is the conviction that we are called into relationship, not just with the divine presence, but with each other.  Indeed, it is through deep relationship with each other that we come to know the Spirit.  Having an ability to be profoundly present to ourselves and, at the same time, deeply present to each other is what we understand it means to be “In Christ.”  We seek in community with each other to build relationships which are safe and satisfying…which are deep and durable.  We invite you to join us.


Contact person: Rev. Dr. Mark Lee Robinson, 314-853-9385 [mobile]